McNaughton case slated for feature on Court TV

By Sharna Johnson: Freedom Newspapers

The case of a Clovis woman killed by a local dentist will be featured on a nationally televised crime show.

In mid-April, family and friends of Laura McNaughton and local law enforcement participated in interviews and investigation reenactments and provided photos for the show “Body of Evidence: From the Case Files of Dayle Hinman,” which airs on Court TV.

Filming in Clovis has been completed, a Court TV spokesperson said, explaining there are many variables in the production and editing process and it is difficult to say when the episode will air.

The body of 30-year-old McNaughton was found by hunters in a rural Curry County ditch December 2005. She had been badly beaten and strangled, records show.

Former Clovis dentist James Smith, 38, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, kidnapping and attempted sexual penetration in December. He is serving a life sentence.

Smith frequented a local restaurant where McNaughton worked as a waitress, asking to sit in her section and leaving her large tips, according to court records.

Her mother, Maria Beardmore, said McNaughton was disturbed by the attention and told friends and family Smith was “weirding her out.”

Clovis investigators were willing to do the story only if the family was OK with it.

Beardmore said she and her husband agreed under some conditions: McNaughton’s children were not to be identified, filmed, pictured or interviewed, and no photos of McNaughton’s body were to be shown.

Clovis Police Capt. Patrick Whitney, who was an investigator at the time of the slaying, said he participated, along with several area investigators, in a reenactment of a phone call Smith made to the district attorney’s office in the days following the murder.

“The biggest concern in cooperating was in ensuring the victim and her family would not be hurt by the added publicity,” he said. “(Show producers) kept reassuring us. We didn’t want her misrepresented or made out to be anything negative.”

A fan of the show, Whitney said highlighting cases such as McNaughton’s can help other investigators develop strategies and inform the public.

Beardmore said she is glad to see her daughter’s case publicized.

“I’ve always watched (“Body of Evidence”). I like (Dayle Hinman) because she seems fair. She likes to catch the person.”

The San Diego resident said thoughts of the show brought back a flood of emotions.

“It could backfire on us, but we’re still going to watch,” she said.

Like Whitney, Beardmore hopes something good will come from telling of her daughter’s story.

The episode will shed light on cases like her daughter’s, perhaps helping people understand the behavior patterns that led to McNaughton’s death.

And maybe the show will quell rumors McNaughton was doing drugs or having an affair with her killer, Beardmore said.

“This is not easy at all. The little things that he did to our family — it has changed our lives drastically. That guy doesn’t know half of the damage he’s done to us,” she said.